Thursday, February 27, 2014

Shifting views of natural hair in the workplace

By Briana Whiteside

When I first made the decision to transition into having natural hair, I received a lot of negative comments from my coworkers. They remarked that my hair looked unkept, and/or they preceded to tell me how they preferred my straightened hair. These unsolicited comments made me feel a little uneasy at first, but I made a conscious decision to continue on with the process.

Overtime, their views have changed, and in surprising ways. Now they ask me how do I get my hair to be so fluffy and big, or my favorite, “does it grow out of your head like that?” There was one time in particular when I came to work that a group of my white coworkers told me that they wished they could have hair like mine because it was so versatile. They liked the way that I can go from a “fro” to a “chic updo” because they can’t do anything with their naturally straight hair. They had curl envy.

Just this weekend another coworker, the one who initially remarked that my hair was unkept told me that she liked my “Foxxy Brown fro” then preceded to touch it. Initially, I was caught off guard by someone freely placing their hands in my hair, but I realized that it’s the texture that she was curious about. “It’s so soft” she remarked.

I have very thick hair, and it has grown significantly over the past 9 months, so much so that it warrants the attention of my coworkers. My hair at work is a cultural statement. I am not ashamed of who I am or the type of hair that I have. Yet, I do believe that if I hadn’t fully embraced this journey my coworkers would not have been able to come to terms with it either.

Briana Whiteside is a graduate student in English at SIUE and a contributing writer for the Cultural Front.    

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